Keeping Store Income Steady

In the past twelve months I’ve had the same conversation with people working for three different Christian charities. Basically it’s been, ‘While we appreciate one-time donors, we can only plan when people set up a plan for monthly giving. That we way we know ahead of time what’s coming in.’

In Christian retail we have no such advantage. While we’re for the most part not charities, we can often feel as though we are. Sales volume can swing wildly up and down. There are good days and bad. Yesterday was the latter in my store. $132 all day. Including taxes. Not enough to pay staff, rent and keep the lights on.

So what can we do?

  1. Keep store awareness high. We always talk about the ‘newsletter jinx’ — the days we do a mass email campaign are usually among our worst, but then days and weeks later people ask about an item they saw in our newsletter.
  2. Schedule frequent sales. You can overdo them, but sales do attract attention. At R. G. Mitchell, the thinking was that sales should start the day following a holiday (i.e. Thanksgiving.) This was a period they identified as a potential drop-off that needed to be offsetting promotion.
  3. Give people a reason to drop in. We just had a rare opportunity to be a ticket outlet for a concert. The response wasn’t huge, but it caused people to visit. A small group had a luncheon and then arranged for everyone to come to our store to pick up the study guide they’re using. All but one bought something additional. A local author decided not to do direct sales through his own network for health reasons, and told everyone the only way to pick up a copy was at our store. We promoted the special Canada edition of Our Daily Bread and told people they wouldn’t see it in most of their churches and encouraged them to pick up a free copy.
  4. Don’t fret daily numbers. You’re better off looking at weekly and monthly stats. You can’t let a few slow days induce panic.
  5. Change displays frequently. Your regular customers need to be confronted with things they haven’t seen before. That does not need to necessarily be new, it just needs to be different. Trading some merchandise between feature areas helps, or even taking two shelf sections and doing a simple left-to-right transfer will get peoples’ attention, costs nothing, and takes only about an hour.
  6. Minister to the needs people mention. Listen. Recommend resources. Refer to qualified counselors. Pray with people. With at least 20% of our clientele on any given day, I am the only ‘pastor’ they will speak with that month. If needs are being met, people will come back and/or tell their friends.
  7. Be honest with church staff. Let your colleagues in ministry know that you’d appreciate anything they can do to generate store visits or any ideas they have. Be candid with local church leaders about the struggles and challenges of doing Christian retail.

 

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Remembering Christian Broadcast Pioneer David Mainse

Canada has lost an iconic Christian broadcaster whose influence extended from shore to shore of this country, lasted many decades, cut across denominational and demographic boundaries and continues to be felt with the daily ministry of 100 Huntley Street.

Global News:

Rev. David Mainse, founder of Crossroads Christian Communications and Canada’s longest running daily Christian talk show 100 Huntley Street, has died at the age of 81.

…Under Mainse’s leadership and direction, what began in 1962 as a weekly black-and-white, 15-minute broadcast that aired after the nightly news on a small Pembroke, Ont., TV station grew to become an expansive family of not-for-profit ministries.

Those ministries included international multimedia programming, an international relief and development organization, a broadcast school (that trained communicators from more than 80 countries around the world) and a national prayer centre that staffs more than 100 volunteers to field 30,000 calls each month, providing 24/7 telephone prayer support to Canadians.

…It was a result of Mainse’s vision (which was motivated by a desire to see Christian programming in primetime) and his team’s argument before Canada’s broadcast regulator in the early 1980s, that the CRTC determined there was merit to the idea of allowing religious groups to own and operate broadcast stations. This was an opportunity that had not existed in Canada for 50 years.

Lorna Dueck, recently appointed CEO of Crossroads wrote:

I’ve lost my mentor, dear friend, and champion – Rev. Dr. David Mainse who passed on to his Heavenly broadcast seat. Oh the people he will meet!

The family posted this announcement on Facebook:

…David’s passion for Jesus spilled out into every area of his life and fueled him as an enthusiastic evangelist, visionary leader, and beloved mentor to so many. Having been in TV ministry since 1962, David was greatly loved by countless people with whom he connected daily, sharing the love of Jesus and wearing his heart on his sleeve. He was a man of impeccable integrity whose public and personal life were in clear alignment, enabling him to powerfully impact the masses and the individual…especially his family. Through his words and actions, David lived out his oft-quoted words, “One soul is worth more than the whole world.” His life-long desire was to see precious lives transformed for all eternity through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ…a desire he satisfied with great success.

Although he will be greatly missed, David’s influence will live on through his family, the ministry he founded (Crossroads), and the many lives he touched and inspired in his beloved Canada and around the world during his 60+ years of ministry…

Visit the website; click either one of the images here.


Related:

Earlier this summer I shared my own reflections of working for David and Crossroads in this story.

 

 

 

Retailers: Promo Video for Forthcoming Title

Here’s a bonus: She’s a Canadian author who is the daughter of a Canadian author you already carry. It’s a parenting book that some teens will want to read for themselves. It’s anecdotal, researched and well written. You have people who want this book.

We’ll have more to say about Why I Didn’t Rebel by Rebecca Lindenbach in a few days, but in the meantime, here’s a 30-second promo you want to embed in your store newsletters, on Facebook, on Twitter and on your store website or blog. Use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhBZ5czm7Oc

Categories: Uncategorized

Canadian Dollar in Perspective

Canadian stores which used Send the Light Distribution (STL) tended to keep a closer watch on the USD/CAD exchange rate than they might do today. While some object to my characterization of Anchor/Word Alive as replacing STL, Word Alive invoices products in Canadian funds, and as we’ve noted before, those fixed exchange rates are slow to change with all our domestic distributors in Canada. I think that’s more about survival than a conspiracy to keep dealers convinced the rates are immovable.

So even though the CAD is doing well against its US counterpart, we’re really not seeing the effects of it, but it’s good to keep an eye on the exchange rate nonetheless. It would be nice to have a hint of acknowledgement of the situation; even if it was on a limited range of products.

However, as I noted in July,

…However, in this discussion, be careful what you wish for. The lower USD devalues much of your current inventory and also encourages your exchange-rate-savvy customers to buy online. Furthermore, some of the larger bankruptcies and closings in this country happened when the CAD was doing extremely well.

And again back in May,

In an industry where list prices are determined by conversion rates, it’s easy to say that a better dollar might kickstart better sales…But it also true that some of the most significant bankruptcies and closures in Canada happened when our dollar was high. A slow movement back to something like a 1.2500 conversion rate would be nice. But don’t skimp on inventory waiting for something which might not happen.


Image: Toronto Star (print) September 23, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

“All Aboard”

The website Shorpy, to which my wife subscribes, features high resolution historic photos. Images of churches or anything remotely religious are rather rare, however. She spotted this one which they posted a few days ago, which features the Ellicott Square Building in Buffalo, New York, circa 1900.

For reasons apparent below, they named this picture “The Gospel Wagon.”

So our question is, “What is it?”

a) A traveling mini-stage for a gospel presentation; street ministry
b) A means of taking a few people to a church service; transportation
c) A traveling shop for a colporteur, selling Bibles, etc.; sales vehicle

Any guesses? (Hint: Google the phrase ‘Gospel Wagon.’)

Categories: Uncategorized

New Comfort Print Font Will Improve Readability

Like many other stores, I received this notification/reminder from HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada about the conversion taking place among all the Thinline Bibles in the NIV, KJV and NKJV product range issued by the publisher. Although the image below is not as sharp as I would have preferred, the difference in readability is unmistakable:

If there’s any takeaway from this it’s this: Font size doesn’t tell the whole story. Consider what you’re reading right now (if you’re not reading this on a mobile device). This is the typeface for this article. This is the same typeface in bold face. This is the same typeface enlarged one size.

The size differential certainly helps, but the change in the the thickness of the type is all that’s needed to bring much greater clarity. And doing that, instead of going to large print, will keep the Bible at a reasonable size in the customers’ hands.

A website, ComfortPrintBibles.com is under construction but will be finished by the end of October. The video below can be featured on your store website or Facebook page, or embedded in your next store newsletter.

 

The Word is Out in New Brunswick

Tuesday marked the opening of The Word is Out Bookstore in Rothesay, New Brunswick, a town with a population of approx. 12,000 which serves as a northeast suburb of St. John. In addition to familiar merchandise, the store features locally produced giftware from Wee Miracles by Design. Owner Wanda Richard has created a spacious environment with high ceilings and attractive displays. The store is located in a retail strip mall at 83 Hampton Road.

Categories: Uncategorized

Heroes

by Aaron Wilkinson

to read this at Aaron’s blog, Voice of One Whispering, click this link.

I had never been one to have heroes, or “idols/role models/etc.” My classmates in school would admire celebrities or athletes but I never really got that. I recognized good traits in the grownups around me and I would feel appreciation and respect but never anything like awe.

Such remained the case until last summer. I had just graduated university and I stumbled into the world of apologetics and I quickly discovered Nabeel Qureshi.

Nabeel’s powerful testimony was a bestseller and his personality and academic prowess strongly impressed upon me. I watched his debates and lectures, always admiring how he could be so firm and passionate in the truth and yet respectful and irenic at the same time (and the world of Christian apologetics can be rather deprived of irenic personalities.)

There’s a scene in The Hobbit where Balin, upon seeing the heroism of Thorin, says “There is one who I could follow. There is one I could call king.” My impression wasn’t quite that strong but I think I now know where Balin was coming from.

I felt rather insecure for a while. Perhaps I had put the man on a pedestal. Basically I felt as though I could never be content with myself until I had reached his level. There was a jealous corner of my heart that thought “I just have to be like him.” Specifically, just as smart as him.

Then, after only a few months of getting to know his work, he was diagnosed with advanced stage stomach cancer and given a grim prognosis. He vlogged his experience over the next year and his physical conditioned worsened. Then on the 16th of September, 2017 he passed away. Obviously this is to be taken seriously and his and his family’s experience of all this is what matters most, but I hope the reader won’t mind if I share my own experience of this.

In a year, Nabeel went from being someone I new nothing about, to being the person I admired the most ever, to being dead. So what happens to a man of such reserved admiration as myself when his hero suffers like this?

In my case, he only admires him more but that admiration changes. The hevel (the word in Ecclesiastes that is translated ‘vanity’ or ‘meaninglessness’) of health and academic achievement blow away and we see what really matters – a soul that loves God. Doctorates are hard but loving God is accessible enough a concept, I think. We also see a spirit that hopes and trusts in the midst of suffering which is a far more important (and more practical) lesson than anything taught in the halls of academia.

I wonder how Jesus’ followers must have felt the day after his crucifixion, having seen the great man they had followed and in whom they’d hope die.

As for my own experience, I now get how how unabashed childlike admiration for a person can transform you. I was drawn to Nabeel for his knowledge of books and histories and theologies, but he taught me (and I hope all of us) a greater lesson: He showed us what it looks like to love and hope in Our Father.

As for my envy over academic accolades, I now feel that disquietness lifted. While his mind was impressive, it is for his heart that I will remember him as being great. Perhaps that is the more effective apologetic. As the church does, remembering great writings from her history such as the letters of Clement or the 95 Theses of Luther, I hope we also remember Nabeel’s Vlog 43, his last public words to the world, as a pattern of conduct for how we are to share our faith.

If you allow yourself to admire a person you might just get hurt. You might just agonize over their suffering. But the strength of God is made perfect in the weakness of man and I cannot at all reflect on the life of Nabeel Qureshi without seeing the love and the power of God behind it all. The Spirit of God has not left us. And He just as might shine through us as well.

Choose your heroes well. I know I did.

Categories: Uncategorized

Author, Speaker, Apologist Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017)

On Saturday, this world lost a key Christian apologist. CBN News reported,

Ex-Muslim turned Christian apologist, Nabeel Qureshi, passed away Saturday after a year-long battle with stomach cancer.

The 34-year-old left behind a wife and two-year-old daughter.

The very man who led Nabeel to Christ, David Wood, announced his death on Twitter saying, “My beloved bother Nabeel, rest in peace and joy with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.”

…Qureshi made the official announcement of his cancer diagnosis August 2016.

“This is an announcement that I never expected to make, but God in his infinite and sovereign wisdom has chosen me for this refining, and I pray he will be glorified through my body and my spirit. My family and I have received the news that I had advanced stomach cancer and the prognosis is quite grim,” he said in a Facebook post.

Nabeel Qureshi was the author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Answering Jihad, and No God But One (Zondervan) and was a sought-after speaker and radio talk show guest.

In a thorough, lengthy, well-written tribute by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition which I recommend you read if you didn’t know of Nabeel, this is but a small excerpt detailing his journey to Christianity:

In August of 2001, while a student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, Nabeel observed fellow student David Wood reading the Bible in his free time. Nabeel regularly read the Qur’an, but it struck him as odd to see a Christian reading the Bible on his own.

Nabeel challenged David’s belief in Christianity, beginning with the charge that the Bible had been corrupted over time. Wood aspired to be a Christian apologist, and the two young men formed a friendship and engaged in debate that lasted for several years.

In working through David’s arguments and examining the evidence for himself, Nabeel eventually became convinced of the general reliability of the New Testament.

He next raised the objection that Jesus never claimed to be God. After being shown this was untrue, Nabeel challenged David that Jesus had never died on the cross. Again, by being willing to investigate the evidence, Nabeel changed his mind.

It was now two and a half years later, and Nabeel raised the greatest stumbling block for accepting Christianity: how could one man die for another man’s sins? And how could the one true God be a Trinity? He was now reading the Bible and considering Christ’s claims for himself.

In return, David began to challenge Nabeel’s confidence in the claims of Islam. Intellectually, Nabeel held to Islam for several subjective reasons (like the kind of life it produced), but objectively, the central claim was that Islam was true because Muhammad was a true prophet of God. But after studying primary sources and biographies, Nabeel eventually concluded that he could not reasonably hold to the idea that Muhammad is the greatest of prophets and history’s most perfect man.

From December of 2004 to April of 2005, Nabeel experienced three vivid dreams that strongly suggested to him that Christianity was true and that Christ should be followed.

Later that year, he traveled to Washington D.C., Canada, and England to search out knowledgeable Muslims who could answer the arguments against Islam that he had encountered. “I heard various replies running the gamut from terribly unconvincing to fairly innovative, and I encountered people that ranged from sincere to condescendingly caustic. At the end of my research, the arguments for and against Islam still hung in the balance, but one thing was abundantly clear: they were far from approaching the strength of the case for Christianity.” continue reading at TGC

Nabeel was a longtime friend of the ministry of Ravi Zacharias, and Ravi personally as well. This was posted yesterday at the RZIM website:

…September 16, our dear brother in Christ Nabeel Qureshi went to be with the Lord following a year-long battle with cancer. We received this news with deep sadness and yet profound hope that he is finally and fully healed in the presence of his Savior.

Please join the RZIM team in praying for Nabeel’s wife, Michelle, and his daughter, Ayah, as well as for his parents and extended family. We know this is Nabeel’s gain, but a tremendous loss for all those who loved him and were impacted by his life and testimony on earth.

We are reminded today of what Ravi Zacharias wrote after seeing Nabeel back in May for what would be the last time in this life. To Nabeel he wrote,

You will be freed to the joy of life where there are no more fears, no more tears, no more hate, no more bloodshed, because you will be with the One who has already shed his blood for you, where love is supreme, grace abounds, and the consummate joy is of the soul. The smile of God awaits you: ‘Well done.’

‘Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love him,’ 1 Corinthians 2:9 promises.

Your eyes will now see and your hands will now touch that which is the only Real estate.”

We are grateful for the outpouring of love and support shown to Nabeel and his family over these past several months, and we ask that you continue in prayer in the days ahead. May God bring comfort as we cling to our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.

Tributes continue to pour in on Twitter. A GoFundMe campaign started four months ago will now continue to provide support for Nabeel’s wife and daughter.

Categories: Uncategorized

Christian Book Title Shortage Continues

These two are releasing in November and December from Thomas Nelson and FaithWords respectively. I’m sure they’re good, but if you stock The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan, you’ve already got this subject covered.

Categories: Uncategorized

Fresh Fiche Weekly

For some of you, this is like a picture of an old friend. If you’re new to the business, you’re thinking, ‘What the heck is this?’

If you’ve been around Christian bookselling for awhile; time to gather the younguns around the screen — already halfway to recreating the experience — and unravel the story of using a fiche reader to look up products for customers.

The Spring Arbor microfiche arrived in the mail weekly. As I remember it, Title (sets; usually 3 – 5 sheets) was weekly, Author was every other week, Music and Video were monthly, and I had a long wait for Category coming once every quarter. Actually, the Category sheets were one of my favorites.

Believe it or not, a small store like ours didn’t think we needed that data with great immediacy. So we shared a subscription with another store. They got them first and mailed them to us. Then we took our set and sent it off to one of our other stores. (We were a chain of three stores at the time, and libraries were always selling off fiche readers cheap.)

The ability to search online made the fiche redundant, as the ability to order online made the Spring Arbor Telxon unit redundant. But we’ll save that one for another day, since the kids probably won’t believe we placed a suction cup on our phone to place orders.

 

Church Staff Decide Library Not Worth Keeping

While touring a church on a recent vacation day, I was taken to this church library where I simply had to take a picture. I love books and am a product of the power of Christian resources.

In Evangelical parlance, the phrase “the colour of the carpet” is used as a euphemism for other superficial issues which can serve as a distraction to true worship and fellowship. It functions in the place of a myriad of other topics which can be divisive in the life of a Christian congregation.

I’ve always sworn I would never be a “colour of the carpet” type of person. Some things are worth making a fuss over, and others should be consigned to the periphery of church concerns.

And then it happened.

At some point over the course of the summer they removed the church library where I worship and gave the contents to a local thrift store.

And I find myself seething.

So in order to justify myself, I have to be convinced that this is more than superficial; this is not about the colour of the carpeting. Here’s why I am so strongly persuaded.

This was someone’s ministry in the church. This was a ministry that someone had poured their heart into for the better part of a decade, receiving an annual budgetary commitment, but little else in the way of enthusiasm. The person was away for six weeks visiting family in another part of the country. They did receive an email warning of what was to come, but little could be done at a distance of thousands of miles. This person deserved some opportunity for closure even if it was one last opportunity to view the boxed-up collection. I list this factor first because as a family, we experienced grieving the loss of a ministry, more than once, at the hands of this same church, and so we identify strongly with this particular aspect of the closure.

The library showed the value the capital-C Church has placed on writings throughout history. Though many weeks less than a dozen resources went out, its presence in the church was iconic in the truest sense of that word. It contained resources for parents, books on basic doctrine and Christian theology, chronicles of the history of the denomination. There were Bibles, videos, CDs, and a host of teaching materials instructive for children.

Donations kept the collection fresh. The people, myself included, who donated resources for this were invested in this particular type of ministry. Some books had been given just weeks before the whole thing was eradicated.

Stewardship was squandered. Because of my vocational role in the community at the local bookstore, I know that several hundred dollars worth of books had been purchased only this year. (But only a few hundred dollars. I have no significant conflict of interest here. My reaction is that of a bibliophile.)

The resources belonged to the congregation. People should have been told about the closure weeks ahead, and had the opportunity to take books of interest and make them part of their home library. They belonged to the people of the church, not the church staff.

They could have helped another church that wanted to have this ministry in their church building. This is a denomination that keeps talking about ‘church planting’ and ‘daughter churches’ and being a ‘network of churches,’ but I doubt any were offered the contents of this already-carefully curated collection. Some would be saddened to know what they missed out on.

They could have sent the resources overseas. Again, as a missionary-minded denomination the idea that the collection wasn’t considered to send to pastors and workers who were unable to take their libraries with them to Third World countries is equally perplexing. On a personal level, as an area volunteer for Christian Salvage Mission, I know the organization would have embraced this acquisition with open arms and heartfelt gratitude on behalf of North American pastors and English-speaking indigenous workers in Africa and Asia. Instead, I wasn’t given the slightest inkling that this was in the works.

They kept two racks of fiction. This was the most disturbing thing of all; what was kept. These shelves are now located in the church’s new café and someone noted that some were books with exceptionally loud colors on the spines. If you were going to keep fiction, these were some of the worst choices. In other words, these books are props. They are being used solely for decorative purposes, to create atmosphere.

They may be deluded that electronic media has replaced books. This church recently signed a contract with Right Now Media, giving church people free access to a large grouping of video content. This is fraught with issues. Video teaching is not the same as learning off the printed page, nor is long-term absorption of the material as great. Older people in the church won’t bother to sign up for Right Now or figure out how it works. The mix of authors and teachers with online content is totally different than those who work solely in print. The library would have complemented the other service. Now they’ll never know if that would have happened.

The space will not see a higher purpose. Looking at that empty room, I wanted to be optimistic; I wanted to say, “Prove to me that what you’re about to do in this space is better than what you had.” It absolutely won’t happen.

The church bylaws are flawed. Major expenditures require approval in a congregational meeting, but the jettison of a major church asset requires no such approval. Given the number of now out-of-print titles that were displayed alongside more recent titles, I’d put the value of what was effectively trashed at at least $20,000 — books aren’t cheap — and that’s an informed opinion of someone working in the publishing industry. So you need to call a vote to acquire larger things, but you’re free to simply give away previously-acquired larger things? No. Not a good idea. For churches or families. Churches operate on the basis of consensus.

The library was doomed for at least a year. I kept forwarding PowerPoint slides along the lines of “Be sure to visit the church library…” to be used in the on-screen announcement crawl before the service, but never saw them used. Now I know why…

…Honestly, I’m not sure where I’m going to church this Sunday. I have real issues with this. I’ve become what the church staff may say is a “colour of the carpet” curmudgeon.

I don’t care. It was plain wrong. The stakeholders weren’t consulted. A horrible decision.

Now there’s no turning back.


“The acquisition of Christian books is necessary for those who can use them. The mere sight of these books renders us less inclined to sin and incites us to believe more firmly in righteousness.”

– Epiphanius (4th Century)